Facets: Issue 36

May 1, 2017

It’s Not Foot in Mouth Disease

jessica nordell
"The problem is that the idea that women are not as good is so deeply embedded in the mind of so many people in positions of power, that it is not even recognized.”

“What we’re not prepared to do is lower our standards.” This response to a question-not-asked was described as ‘foot in mouth,’ but nordell argues that it’s far more sinister. Deeply-embedded belief systems, with echoes not just for women in tech but for people of color and minorities far beyond our industry, manifest in these moments. But we can use them: call out these slip-of-the-tongue, explicit manifestations of deep-seated biases and, in the process, help to eradicate them.

Designing forms for gender diversity and inclusion

Sabrina Fonseca
"I got 5 generous trans and GNC people of various gender identities to anonymously share their experiences and opinions. Their stories revealed that I knew even less than what I thought."

A single ‘male/female’ gender question on a form is no longer just incorrect, but can be harmful. Fonseca’s research here describes, in detail, the challenges presented when form UI isn’t given due consideration. She offers some recommendations but, more than anything, sparks the conversation. Understanding the nuances of exactly why we’re asking the question (and what we need from its answer) is critical, as is acceptance of what the user is prepared to give— and no more.

How diversity branding hurts diversity

Rachel Thomas
"the mere presence of diversity policies...cause white people to be less likely to believe racial discrimination exists and cause men to be less likely to believe gender discrimination exists"

Donating money, collecting diversity data, unconscious bias training, policies— choosing to focus on these “easy problems” will not bring change. On the contrary; announcing these programs without self-reflection as a follow up only gives a boost to the privileged— while doing nothing for the minorities they’re purported to help. As Thomas puts it, “no donation is ever a substitute for the hard work of self-reflection and company-wide change.”

Women and minorities are penalised for promoting diversity

Stefanie K. Johnson & David Hekman
"we found that women and nonwhite executives who were reported as frequently engaging in [promoting diversity] were rated much worse by their bosses"

The underrepresented in tech are often asked to be advocates, to increase diversity within their organisations. However, it’s rare that employers understand the consequences of asking those people to speak. Johnson and Hekman provide a harsh dose of reality, showing that managers who hired someone who looked like them were judged as less competent themselves— unless, of course, that hire was a white male.

Ced Funches on the Responsibility of Being Better Than Advertised

Ced Funches
"designers of color are constantly forced to endure the humiliation of being told they are not qualified, usually by people who are not qualified."

Funches describes his approach to the burden of proof placed upon him and other designers of color in this industry— never qualified enough, never successful enough, never good enough. As his father told him at the age of nine, “you have to be better than advertised.” He asks the industry at large to stop ignoring this phenomenon, and encourages designers of color to find ways grasp their journeys and identities, and tell those stories on their terms.

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